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Filtered or Unfiltered Olive Oil? A Choice for Consumers

While most consumers opt for filtered olive oil, there are some who still prefer the cloudy look. Which is better?

Sep. 17, 2021
By Costas Vasilopoulos

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Olive oil proĀ­ducĀ­tion is the process of extractĀ­ing the oil conĀ­tained in olive druĀ­pes and involves a sequence of stages in a mill.

After the olives are harĀ­vested, they are transĀ­ported to the mill, washed and crushed into a thick paste, which underĀ­goes a process called malaxĀ­aĀ­tion (or kneadĀ­ing). Malaxation is a critĀ­iĀ­cal stage that allows the oil droplets to comĀ­bine and form larger droplets.

It is easy to underĀ­stand that food which is meant to be kept for a long time must be as clean as posĀ­siĀ­ble, filĀ­tered, and stored in steel conĀ­tainĀ­ers.- Matia Barciulli, chef and olive oil enthuĀ­siĀ­ast

Then the paste is fed to a cenĀ­trifuge which spins the paste to sepĀ­aĀ­rate the oil from the fruit flesh, pits and water.

See Also:Olive Oil Basics

Finally, the resultĀ­ing olive oil is passed on to a smaller cenĀ­trifuge machine ā€“ the sepĀ­aĀ­raĀ­tor ā€“ which removes most of the remainĀ­ing water and susĀ­pended solids in the oil.

Thus, olive oil is born. If it fulĀ­fills speĀ­cific qualĀ­ity and senĀ­sory criĀ­teĀ­ria, it is clasĀ­siĀ­fied as extra virĀ­gin, comĀ­prisĀ­ing all the health benĀ­eĀ­fits that olive oil of the highĀ­est qualĀ­ity proĀ­vides.

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After the transĀ­forĀ­maĀ­tion process is comĀ­pleted, there are two paths for proĀ­ducĀ­ers to choose from to get their olive oil to marĀ­ket.

They can botĀ­tle the olive oil as is, unfilĀ­tered. The other option is to filĀ­ter or rack the olive oil, dependĀ­ing on the techĀ­nique applied. Filtration (or rackĀ­ing) removes any remainĀ­ing solid parĀ­tiĀ­cles and moisĀ­ture.

The first apparĀ­ent difĀ­ferĀ­ence between filĀ­tered and unfilĀ­tered olive oil is appearĀ­ance: unfilĀ­tered olive oil is opaque and cloudy due to the solid residĀ­uĀ­als present in the oil, while filĀ­tered olive oil is brighter and more transĀ­parĀ­ent, free of impuĀ­riĀ­ties.

Olive oil filĀ­traĀ­tion is an imporĀ­tant stage of olive oil proĀ­ducĀ­tion in its own right.

The International Olive Council (IOC), the interĀ­govĀ­ernĀ­menĀ­tal orgaĀ­niĀ­zaĀ­tion of olive oil-proĀ­ducĀ­ing nations, recĀ­omĀ­mends that olive oil undergo filĀ­traĀ­tion to remove any solid microparĀ­tiĀ­cles and water, increasĀ­ing the oilā€™s shelf life.

basics-filtered-or-unfiltered-olive-oil-a-choice-for-consumers-olive-oil-times

Extra virgin olive oil prior to filtering

Most comĀ­merĀ­cially availĀ­able extra virĀ­gin olive oils are filĀ­tered.

Unfiltered olive oil, also known as cloudy, veiled or olio nuovo, is availĀ­able in smaller quanĀ­tiĀ­ties and is appreĀ­ciĀ­ated by some conĀ­sumers who believe that it packs a richer flaĀ­vor and aroma and betĀ­ter retains its polypheĀ­nols than its filĀ­tered counĀ­terĀ­part.

Polyphenols are a type of bioacĀ­tive comĀ­pound present in olive oil (and parĀ­ticĀ­uĀ­larly in extra virĀ­gin olive oil) that are responĀ­siĀ­ble for many of olive oilā€™s health benĀ­eĀ­fits. This is why some conĀ­sumers seek high-polypheĀ­nol (or high-pheĀ­noĀ­lic) extra virĀ­gin olive oils.

There is no definĀ­iĀ­tive norm among olive oil proĀ­ducĀ­ers when it comes to filĀ­traĀ­tion. Some do not filĀ­ter their olive oils, while othĀ­ers take the extra step to obtain a clearer end prodĀ­uct.

See Also:If youā€™re not filĀ­terĀ­ing your olive oil, read this.

Filtering results in clearer flaĀ­vor and aroĀ­mas to the oil, has a minĀ­iĀ­mal effect on the conĀ­tent of polypheĀ­nols and other benĀ­eĀ­fiĀ­cial comĀ­pounds, and extends the oilā€™s shelf life.

Eleftheria Kasfiki, an export manĀ­ager at Olico Brokers, a botĀ­tling and exportĀ­ing comĀ­pany based in Athens, says filĀ­terĀ­ing is essenĀ­tial and preĀ­serves extra virĀ­gin olive oil and all of its qualĀ­iĀ­ties.

Kasfiki disĀ­agrees that olive oil retains its organolepĀ­tic charĀ­acĀ­terĀ­isĀ­tics when left unfilĀ­tered since sedĀ­iĀ­ment conĀ­sistĀ­ing of olive pulp parĀ­tiĀ­cles, moisĀ­ture and marĀ­garines ā€“ byprodĀ­ucts creĀ­ated durĀ­ing the ferĀ­menĀ­taĀ­tion of the olive oil in the botĀ­tle ā€“ gradĀ­uĀ­ally form at the botĀ­tom of the botĀ­tle, alterĀ­ing the flaĀ­vor and reducĀ­ing the shelf life of the oil.

She added that olive oil filĀ­terĀ­ing, espeĀ­cially when proĀ­ducĀ­ing extra virĀ­gin olive oil, is a demandĀ­ing process that requires investĀ­ments in equipĀ­ment and experĀ­tise to be done effecĀ­tively.

ā€œOlive oil filĀ­terĀ­ing removes the moisĀ­ture and any remainĀ­ing residĀ­uĀ­als in the oil, makĀ­ing it clear and ready for conĀ­sumpĀ­tion,ā€ Kasfiki says. ā€‹ā€œOnly in the case of early-harĀ­vested extra virĀ­gin olive oil (olio novĀ­ello), which is availĀ­able to conĀ­sumers for a short period of about three months each seaĀ­son, filĀ­terĀ­ing is eschewed.ā€

According to Matia Barciulli, an Italian chef and olive oil enthuĀ­siĀ­ast, some conĀ­sumersā€™ prefĀ­erĀ­ence for unfilĀ­tered olive oil is a remĀ­nant of the past.

ā€œThe mind goes back to the time when all the proĀ­ducĀ­tion process was so artiĀ­sanal, and the only opporĀ­tuĀ­nity for filĀ­terĀ­ing was a surĀ­face sepĀ­aĀ­raĀ­tion, with all the ferĀ­menĀ­taĀ­tion that process actiĀ­vated,ā€ he said.

basics-filtered-or-unfiltered-olive-oil-a-choice-for-consumers-olive-oil-times

Filtered olive oil

ā€œWe shouldĀ­nā€™t be debatĀ­ing on olive oil filĀ­terĀ­ing in our time,ā€ Barciulli added. ā€‹ā€œIt is easy to underĀ­stand that food which is meant to be kept for a long time must be as clean as posĀ­siĀ­ble, filĀ­tered, and stored in steel conĀ­tainĀ­ers.ā€

ā€œMany times, I walk into a superĀ­marĀ­ket, and I see peoĀ­ple lookĀ­ing at this horĀ­riĀ­ble transĀ­parĀ­ent botĀ­tle of olive oil with a cenĀ­timeĀ­ter of brown mass at the botĀ­tom,ā€ he conĀ­tinĀ­ued. ā€‹ā€œI explain to them that what they have is a botĀ­tle of ranĀ­cid oil with some unwanted flaĀ­vors trapped inside.ā€

Largely speakĀ­ing, filĀ­tered olive oil is more appealĀ­ing to conĀ­sumers than unfilĀ­tered oil due to its clarĀ­ity.

Filtered olive oil also boasts a longer shelf life; unfilĀ­tered olive oil is more prone to the effect of heat and light and should be conĀ­sumed more quickly than filĀ­tered extra virĀ­gin olive oil.

Unfiltered olive oil is often sought by nosĀ­talĀ­gic shopĀ­pers lookĀ­ing for freshly-milled olive oil to be conĀ­sumed immeĀ­diĀ­ately or within a couĀ­ple of months.

The difĀ­ferĀ­ence in nutriĀ­tional ingreĀ­diĀ­ents (such as polypheĀ­nols) between filĀ­tered and unfilĀ­tered olive oil is negĀ­liĀ­giĀ­ble. After all, the polypheĀ­nol conĀ­tent in olive oil mostly corĀ­reĀ­sponds to the variĀ­ety and oriĀ­gin of olives and proper proĀ­cessĀ­ing at the mill, rather than the filĀ­traĀ­tion process.

In any case, choosĀ­ing a filĀ­tered or an unfilĀ­tered extra virĀ­gin olive oil is a matĀ­ter of taste and perĀ­sonal prefĀ­erĀ­ence.

When olive oil filĀ­terĀ­ing is done propĀ­erly and in a timely manĀ­ner, the results can be rewardĀ­ing for proĀ­ducĀ­ers and conĀ­sumers alike.


Updated Sep. 27 10:27 UTC

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